The Blue Note, December 3, 2012:
Michel Camilo is playing, two nights only, at The Blue Note in New York on just a weekend’s notice. He is substituting for jazz saxophone icon, Gato Barbieri, who has taken ill. Nonetheless, we can certainly count on an amazing show. Chris La Rosa and I travel to Manhattan to see the Michel Camilo Trio. Cheri serves us tonight and the food and service is outstanding. We are joined tonight by Chris’s longtime friends Loretta and Chris. John and Tessi from Australia are here for their very visit to The Blue Note and are in for a super-sized musical treat.
At 8:06 P.M. Michel Camilo, Cliff Almond and Lincoln Grimes take the stage. Michel begins his thoughtful melodic development with expressive strokes of musical color and harmonious annotated brushes. His composition “Yes” begins with a syncopated percussive attack and increasingly fluid melodic flow. Michel’s left hand ‘comps’ the melody as his right hand pushes the percussive notes of the lead. Quickly, his hands are blurring with double-time two-hand rolls that are very strong and powerful.
Lincoln Grimes takes a bass solo with selective note choices and creative use of rests for dynamic divergence. Cliff Almond and Michel perform a call/response segment with Cliff’s left hand leading a cut-time passage featuring quarter note rolls. Michel and Cliff are musically conversing back and forth. Cliff’s drumming is very discerning with his closed hi-hat and reverse stick. This super restrained, very open, extremely staccato style is one of Cliff Almond’s percussive specialties.
Michel Camilo performs “A Place in Time” that is mysterious, sultry and dream-like. The musical feeling is reserved and respectful. The intro is caressingly quiet and thoughtful, with his minor key mystery enveloping us all. Lincoln’s bass resonates clearly utilizing ‘fat’ sustained notes while Cliff executes silky smooth drum rolls on his ride cymbals; with the occasional hi-hat smash-release for provocative dynamic curiosity. The dynamic intensity builds and builds but is capped and controlled and remains reverent. Lincoln’s bass solo exudes thoughtful, well chosen melodic metaphors, with his fingers discerning notes in sporadic frenzied flashes. The melody remains calming, sultry and reserved.
Michel Camilo has an extended piano solo on “Sam Walked In.” The arrangement is upbeat and exuberant; Cliff Almond is all groove as his reverse stick is tight and simmering. The musical momentum builds to pandemonium as Michel smokes his double-hand rolls. Cliff continues to dazzle with cut-time syncopated percussive figures resolving to double-time; and then continuing to a traditional Latin beat. The blurry staccato two-hand rolls are passionate and splattered with ingenious rests to emphasize dramatic rhythmic contrast.
Michel’s mysterious, reflective and deliciously poignant piano introduces “Alfonsina Y El Mar.” The trio joins in sparingly, with delicate and restrained accompaniment. The musical mood is passionate, arousingly sensuous and is clearly stated and brilliantly phrased. Cliff Almond cleverly uses his bare hands on the snare, with a very inventive muted effect. He playfully executes fingertip rolls and imaginative floor tom-tom strokes. The unique playing technique is extremely effective. Lincoln’s selective, sustained bass notes are a perfect match for the musical context and content.
Art Blakey’s “Repercussions” follows with Cliff and Michel generating immediate fiery excitement and drama. This spirited and pulsating bop builds in intensity with a super syncopated reverse stick drum figure that intimately mimics Michel’s incredible blurring and percussive double-hand rolls. Michel ardently ‘comps’ the chord melody as Lincoln solos on his bass with clear melodic sensitivity. Cliff continues his syncopated attack with succinct accents, and one huge stop for keenly dramatic musical effect. The emphatic look on Cliff’s face brings a good laugh from Chris and me.
The music rises to a ferocious intensity with “Midnight in Tunisia.” Cliff is very inspiring with a blazing double-time meter and remarkable staccato accents on the crown of his cymbals. Lincoln is driving the musical momentum with his blistering bass. His bass feature demonstrates his consummate finger dexterity and superior melodic intuition. Cliff revisits his closed hi-hat syncopation, which is extremely controlled with double-rolls inserted arbitrarily at will. Cliff solos effortlessly with off-beat syncopated patterns on his tom-toms, skillfully contrasted with his signature cut-time accents on his closed hi-hat. The musical intensity builds and then just as soon quiets as an intriguing call/response from Michel and Lincoln showcases a hushed cut-time bass feature to put extra cream on their musical cake. The first set is especially exhausting as expected, and Michel Camilo remains true-to-form. He continues to inspire his fellow musicians to incredible musical performance pinnacles.
When speaking to Michel in the green room, his incredible enthusiasm is clearly expressed in his gorgeous smile and truly genuine affection for composing, performing and spontaneously creating stunning musical realities with reckless abandon. Michel Camilo sums up this musical experience quite succinctly, by saying that he begins each and every performance event with the attitude: “I just, let it flow!” After all these years of witnessing Michel and his carefully selected, brilliant musical teammates, I can only say that this blueprint of , “just let it flow” produces a torrent of genuine musical performance passion and spontaneously controlled expression, that is amazing to witness and gratifying to be so very, very close to! Please don’t stop!!
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